Watching the lopsided and rather boring blowouts that occurred today in the women’s semis, I could not help but think on the piece I had read earlier in the week, in the New York Times, all about how the French should bring the women’s pay up to the men’s.
The French so far have resisted. The men make 1, 106, 000 dollars for the winner, the women’s champ earns 1, 090, 000. Not much difference between the two, really.
But it’s the principle, I know. Well, it’s also economics, so thinks Jean-Claude Blanc, the head of the French Tennis Federation. He very rationally points out three reasons why this cannot occur, and try as I would like, I cannot get out from under the logic of his argument.
Number one, the men simply put in a lot more hours on court in a Grand Slam than the women do.
Number two, the women’s field is not nearly as dense down through the first fifty seedings, say, as the men’s.
And number three, which really touches on the heart of the economics of the matter, the networks prefer the men’s matches in terms of their perspective.
But all this raises a new and interesting question, would we really want to SEE five sets of the women’s matches today? Would most of the women’s tour be physically ready for that? I would say not, many of them seem to be suffering mightily just getting through two, or even three, sets let alone five. I know everyone’s working out harder these days on conditioning, but even so it is probably not to where it could be.
And I’m afraid I would, as a spectator, be obliged to suffer right along with them. Not fun, thinks I.
God, I would want to pay them equal pay just to get them the hell away. I could not take five sets of this kind of tennis. Or, at least, three sets of what we saw today. Which could not end soon enough for me.
Call me sexist, and yes maybe I am. But I want to see the women improve more. They are getting there, but Mr. Blanc is correct and the TV networks bear him out. The men’s matches are better for ratings. Because it is a better, more exciting brand of tennis.
The guys yesterday, finishing up the bottom part of the draw in the quarterfinals, put on spectacular five set marathon displays of high-spirited tennis, albeit well-seasoned with many errors.
Robredo did the same. He has what could become a very stylish all court game if he could play the big matches more consistently. He has been hovering in the 10th-25th ranking for some time now, he is ready for a move up perhaps. He seems to have the skills, he needs to develop the head strategy to go along with it.
As fraught with errors as the match was, it was also a lot of fun. We got to see two guys ready to make a move up put on an entertaining display of tennis. It was close right down to the finish. Davydenko won the match, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
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If they ever erect a statue at Roland Garros of Mary Pierce, who after all is nearly French, and should she win the final on Saturday against Belgium’s Justine Henin-Hardenne, it should probably be styled after the classic painting of Venus stepping out of her bath in the giant seashell.
She gives new meaning to the term, a Pregnant Pause. Mary has many of them. For adjusting her hair, shaking her bracelets, gazing over the net at her opponents as if she were dreamily sizing them up for her next barbie. And they were the star pieces of meat.
It is probably one of the rare times on a tennis court when the opponent was intimidated by smiles rather than ferocious focused anger. Mary took her own sweet time, and she was very sweet about it. Very relaxed. This could have been a day at the spa for her, instead of on unforgiving red clay. She hammered Likhovetseva all over the court.
After the match Brad Gilbert sweetly chastised poor Likhovtseva for allowing herself to get whipped so soundly. He told the story of an early coach he had who admonished him, “When you lose the first set 6-1, you have to do something, anything. Give him junk! Give him moonballs! Otherwise it’s a blowout for sure.”
But she didn’t, she played the second set exactly as she had the first pretty much. And the score was the same, 6-1.
Justine Henin-Hardenne is not likely to be so sweet about Mary’s penchant for squandering time on court between points. Just go up and tell the referee ahead of the match your concerns about Mary staying within the time constraints. That way she will be clued into it from the start. So said Brad Gilbert, and also apparently Justine’s longtime coach, Carlos Rodriguez.
He is trying to get her to move forward more in her matches, to come into net more often. Justine says she feels a lot of tension from attempting that, she is not fully comfortable at the net yet. Fortunately, today she could rely on her greatest strengths, her backhand, her variety, and her intensity of play, to get her by a rather lackluster Petrova on one of her lesser days. She will worry about her net play some other day.
Petrova is a big power hitter, but not consistently enough that she can go for outright winners. She kept trying to do that through much of the first half of the match, overhitting balls or netting them. She needed to just keep the ball in play a bit before she went for her big shot.
By the time she started doing this, the match was nearly over. No surprises here.
So, the call please. I say Justine will give Mary’s bell a good ringing Saturday in the final, I would be very surprised if she even got a set off Justine.